Those who strive for greatness must at some point in their lives undergo the seemingly impossible — leaving the comfort of home. For most college students, the first of these moments is still a fresh memory after bidding family members farewell their freshman year, inevitably realizing that the notion of “home” is now markedly less certain. In the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, based on the book by Irish author Colm Tóibín, you will find your mind transported back to memories and moments as these.
Saorise Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl who, with the help of an Irish priest in Brooklyn, is given the opportunity to leave her dead-end job at the local bakery. Young and determined to do something more, she takes the chance to experience a taste of life across the pond in New York during the '50s. Though working at the clothing store Bertucci's by day, she feeds her ambition for greatness by taking night classes at Brooklyn College. Here, Eilis studies to become a bookkeeper and later an accountant.
Desperately trying to adjust to her foreign environment, Eilis battles with many difficulties. Her demanding boss at Bertucci’s constantly eyes her from above as she nervously tries to make conversation with the customers. Also, she encounters loneliness despite living in a boarding house with girls who share her Irish background — having already assimilated to the American culture, these girls tease her and brag about their new lives. Initially, Eilis wants nothing but to reconnect with the comfort of home. When her first letter arrives from Ireland, she eagerly jumps from the dinner table, only to shed tears of sorrow upon reading it.
Soon, however, Eilis discovers her saving grace in the form of an Italian boy named Tony Fiorello, played by the charming, innocent, baby-faced Emory Cohen. Tony, despite their difference in culture and heritage, helps Eilis to create a new home in Brooklyn. He takes her to the see the Dodgers, to Coney Island, skips out on work to walk her home from night school, and even brings her home to meet his family, which, as the film points out for many Italian-Americans, is a big deal. Eilis, then, has finally found comfort in her new environment with the knowledge that she has someone like Tony to make her life in Brooklyn more livable.
Finally content in her new life, Eilis soon encounters an even bigger challenge than those that Brooklyn had presented — returning home. Welcomed with open arms, she is offered a job as a bookkeeper and even connects with a young man from the local rugby club, Jim Farell, played by Domnhall Gleason (also responsible for the portrayal of the menacing General Hux in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens). Suddenly, Eilis has a reason to stay, tearing her in two different directions.
Even though this movie takes place in the '50s, Boston College students can identify with it on some level. Brooklyn is not only an intelligent, romantic film full of strife and passion, but a work that forces us to ponder what “home” really is. Is it where you were raised, or is it possible to discover a new one? This movie appeases many beyond just the hopeless romantics and guarantees a pleasant surprise, very much akin to that of Eilis' experiences, when she discovered a life that existed outside of the house where she was raised.